Local Government is the Cool Kid in School

In U.S., Trust in State, Local Governments Up

Sixty-five percent trust their state government, 74% their local

by Jeffrey M. Jones

PRINCETON, NJ — Americans’ trust in their state and local governments has increased this year, with 74% expressing a great deal or fair amount of trust in local government and 65% in state government. Trust in state government has now essentially returned to levels seen before the financial crisis, after falling to as low as 51% in 2009.

The results are based on Gallup’s annual Governance survey, conducted Sept. 6-9. Americans’ trust in the federal government’s ability to handle international and domestic issues and their trust in the three branches of the federal government are all up at least marginally this year.

Americans typically trust local government more than state government, but a majority have expressed trust in each every time Gallup has measured trust. The public’s trust in local government has been more stable over time, and thus appears to be affected less by state or national political and economic factors than trust in state government is.

State government trust dipped to 53% in 2003 amid the California recall of Gov. Gray Davis, largely due to the influence of Californians’ trust on the national numbers. Trust quickly rebounded to 67% in 2004, then held steady at that level through 2008. Then the 2008-2009 financial crisis caused state governments to face financial hardships of their own, with many struggling to pay their obligations, and trust sank to 51% in 2009.

But with the economy improving somewhat and states apparently on better financial footing after making cutbacks in recent years, trust in state government has improved, a total of 14 percentage points since 2009.

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